We are not the same. Have never been the same.
Because she is my exact opposite. My reflection.
My Mirror Twin.
I chose to write about identical twins—Mirror Twins—because I’ve long been fascinated by what it must be like to actually be a twin. (Full disclosure: my mum is an identical twin and my husband is a fraternal twin!). It’s no coincidence that they are written about so often in fiction, because their lives, their experiences, are so unique. There’s something almost supernatural or alien—unknowable—about them. The rest of us have never shared our mother’s womb with someone else, or grown up in absolute tandem with someone else. We won’t ever know what it’s like to have another person in the world who looks and sounds exactly like we do. Mirror Twins are identical twins, in that they are both from a single egg (monozygotic). But the theory is that the egg splits much later in Mirror Twins than in identical twins—generally more than a week after conception. Just before they would become conjoined twins. As a result of this, Mirror Twins typically have incredibly close bonds.
Mirror Twins are literally mirror reflections of each other, sometimes even having the same dreams or thoughts or emotions. Some Mirror Twins feel so connected they describe it as having one brain in two bodies. Others claim a telepathy that extends to physically feeling pain when the other is hurt.
Of course, in fiction, writing about twins heightens the potential for conflict and drama in almost any kind of situation. But especially when it comes to love. Sibling rivalry is bad enough even when you’re different ages (“You’re older, you should know better,” ad infinitum). But there’s this added sense as a twin that you’re equally matched, particularly if you’re identical. So, if you’re the one not picked, if you’re the one who loses, it must feel a hundred times more personal. It’s not because of what you look like, it’s because of who you are. Because there’s also the tendency for others to treat you as if you really are one brain in two bodies, where personality traits are divvied up between you: one of you must be introvert, the other extrovert; one brainy, the other athletic, and so on. It must be hard, sometimes unbearable, if your sister is always the only yardstick that you’re measured against and vice versa. Most identical twins have inevitably close relationships, but there has to be some resentment born of that closeness. In many ways they are completely unique and yet in many other ways, they will always be less unique than everyone else.
Snow-white said: “We will not leave each other,”
Rose-red answered: “Never so long as we live.”
My mum and my aunt lived in the same town when I was growing up. I remember, often when we were out and about, people would approach Mum and start chatting, thinking she was her sister. And sometimes, if it was just a quick hello, how are you? Mum wouldn’t correct them. When I asked once why, she said it was because she hated that moment when she had to interrupt and put them straight, when she had to tell them that she wasn’t the person they thought they were talking to. I can’t remember exactly how she put it, but I can imagine what she meant. How strange—and uniquely horrible—it must be to have the friendly familiarity in someone’s eyes suddenly vanish. To be replaced with what? Embarrassment? Cool politeness? Maybe even resentment—as if you’ve somehow duped them, made them complicit in a lie.
So many writers’ ideas come from asking the question What if? You start with what grabs you the most, things that have been cluttering up your mind for a long time—identical twins, a passion for secret histories, love triangles, revenge plots, and a crumbling, creepy old house with a locked door that goes nowhere, for example—and then you ask What if?
What if something terrible happened to those twins when they were children? What if they fell in love with the same man when they were adults? What if that almost supernatural bond that they shared had slowly become so toxic that they could no longer be in each other’s lives? What if one sister then went missing? And what if that bond between them—all the terrible and forgotten secrets, lies, and betrayals—was the only thing that might save her? That might save them both?
Read now on any device